Hall of Fame NBA player and TNT commentator Charles Barkley just landed a new TV show, but it has nothing to do with basketball. The Inside the NBA co-host will host a six-part, unscripted series called The Race Card about the state of race relations in America.
TNT announced the new show on Sunday at a Television Critics Association event, and expounded on the series via a press release:
In “The Race Card,” Charles Barkley wants to bust up the echo chamber mentality that so often has people retreating to corners of the like-minded, where views are reinforced and ideas are distorted into angry, unexamined groupthink conclusions. Each week, Barkley will take on the rapidly calcifying positions around today’s hot-button topics. He will seek out the sharpest and most varied viewpoints from today’s cultural leaders and tastemakers. He will then challenge and probe those ideas, even trying them out on himself.
No idea presented on “The Race Card” will be left in the abstract. Barkley will put ideas on their feet, with real-world proof-of-concept tests that will engage people and expose the truth behind their closely held beliefs. In the end, Barkley will reach his own conclusions guided only by his own wits and common-sense wisdom.
“We as Americans never discuss the issue of race in this country and how it impacts everything in our lives until something bad happens,” Barkley said. “I see this project as a way to talk about race, class and cultural differences and challenge everyone’s status quo.”
So…let me get this straight. Charles Barkley, the man who argued “we as Black people are never going to be successful” because “you have to deal with so much crap in your life from other Black people” is who TNT picked to lead America through a thoughtful and important conversation about race?
Charles Barkley? The same person who claimed, “There are a lot of Black people who are unintelligent, who don’t have success. It’s best to knock a successful Black person down because they’re intelligent, they speak well, they do well in school, and they’re successful. It’s just typical BS that goes on when you’re Black,” at the same time Black America regularly celebrates the excellence of Barack and Michelle Obama, two highly educated, Ivy League grads, who also happen to be two of the most powerful people in the world?
No, TNT must have picked some other Charles Barkley because they couldn’t have possibly chosen the one who has dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement; agreed that George Zimmerman should have gotten off for killing Trayvon Martin; claimed “there’s racism on both sides” and we “never get mad when Black people kill each other;” and continues to believe (the completely debunked myth) there are more Black men in prison than in college (just so we’re clear: there aren’t).
We’re talking about that Charles Barkley?
While it’s true Barkley is a popular figure to many and is not short on strong opinions, he isn’t exactly equipped with the knowledge and vocabulary it will take to moderate an actual and factual nuanced conversation about race in America.
While he insists people “never discuss the issue of race in this country and how it impacts everything in our lives until something bad happens,” Black folks have been talking and writing about race, racism, oppression, and freedom since we landed in this country. I mean, has Barkley never heard about Ida B. Wells, or W.E.B. Dubois, or Anna Julia Cooper, or Malcolm X, or Sojourner Truth, or Ta-Nehisi Coates, or Michelle Alexander, or Isabel Wilkerson, or Derrick Bell, or Kimberlé Crenshaw, or Michael Eric Dyson, or…seriously, I could go on all day.
And though Barkley claims his show will “challenge everyone’s status quo,” I can’t help be wonder if he’ll push past his own problematic “status quo” of respectability politics and white-Conservative-aligning views to see beyond his antiquated stances.
It remains to be seen how exactly Barkley’s Race Card series will play out, but instead of leading the conversation, he should probably be on the sidelines, listening.
Britni Danielle is the Senior Digital Editor of EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Catch her Tweeting @BritniDWrites.